Cats make great company. I like dogs just fine, but I am firmly in the “cat person” camp. I really hate being alone but having cats helps. We currently have 5 cats. Chuck commented to me that he hates that “the more cats we get, the more I love them.” Psht, this is simple exponential cat-amatics. We had both cats and dogs in our homes growing up (and fish, crayfish, tadpoles, and various wild creatures like snakes, baby bunnies, and box turtles that we would catch and keep just for the day, until everyone had a chance to see the poor thing, and then release back into the wild). I like animals just fine, though horses sort of annoy me. They’ve outlived their usefulness as a domesticated animal, you know? Cats are just the best kind of pet I know how to have.
Everyone in that “barely out of college/in a committed relationship/no kids yet” stage of life seems to have a dog. Dogs are great, but they tie you down. You need to walk them and get them lots of exercise, train them, and you can never go anywhere for more than 8 hours without making plans for (and spending money on) your dog. I like the beach and the boardwalk; no dogs allowed. We like to spend long weekends on my in-laws’ boat; we’d either have to kennel a dog or buy a doggie life vest and schedule everything around the dog. And Chuck goes to football games every weekend in the fall. Again, no dogs allowed. Frankly, I think I am just too lazy to be a dog owner. I was already thinking about how to convince Chuck that we needed a feline family member. And then Penny found us.
It turns out, Penny took care of everything. One day in May of 2005 I was working in the flower beds at our house. I started moving shovels and supplies from the shed in the back yard to the bed by the front door, and a tiny orange tribble appeared on the back deck. She was so small that she kept stumbling as her paws slipped through the boards in the deck. She was so miniscule that when she followed me to the front of the house, instead of walking through the open gate, she climbed through the chain-link fence. Every time I used the shovel, she sat on it. Every time I knelt to weed, she sat on me. I called Chuck at work but had to leave a voicemail. “I think we need to keep this kitten. It’s obviously a stray and it is sooooo sweet. Can we keep her?” Chuck called me back. “It sounds like you already decided that you’re keeping it.” “Yea!!!! Thankyouthankyouthankyou honey! You will love her; she is sooo tiny and cute!” “Uh-huh. I gotta get back to work.”
So Penny found me and moved in. Later my neighbor told me her babysitter found another orange kitten around the same time in her back yard. He son adopted him and named him Oliver, after Oliver in Company. I did not bother to tell my neighbor that the Disney movie is based on a classic Dickens novel. Because I am neighborly.
Tiny and coppery like a penny, my new best friend kept us awake every night for 6 months. Kittens are a lot of work. She slept on my chest every night but woke up to play as soon as we were in REM. If we put her out of the bedroom, she would scratch at the door and cry. If one of us left the house while the other was still in bed, she would forget that she wasn’t alone and cry at the door until we called for her. I think when we really did leave her alone, she would cry for hours. She nipped and bit at our hands when we petted her, and she hissed and screamed when we brushed her. But she loved us and we loved her. Most of her issues sorted themselves out when we adopted Simon, our second cat, but she still hates to be brushed. I’m pretty sure that she thinks I am her mommy, and she is completely devoted to me. Penny is my daughter and my baby and anyone who has every bonded with a cat knows exactly what I mean when I say that. Everyone else needs to get a cat.
Today Penny (sometimes lovingly called “Penny Cat,” “Pen-Pen” and “Penelope Ann” when she is naughty) is a 13 pound ball of orange fluff. She is always in charge and always deliberate. She still sleeps on my chest, and will wait for me in bed if I am still up and she is ready to snuggle. She loves wet food and her crinkly tube and boxes and paper bags. Penny watches Futurama and South Park on my laptop but does not care for any other television. My constant companion vies for my attention nearly every moment I am home; she takes advantage of any apparent lap I acquire, even if I am sitting on the toilet. My laptop is her nemesis because it is the only thing I will choose over her to sit in my lap.
One way I cope with being abandoned during football season is by reminding myself that if I stay home, I’m not alone. Cats are with me. Especially Penny!
Obligatory cat photos: